Emmett Johnston, head of the Basking Shark Research Project, said nobody knows exactly where the huge creatures go when they disappear out of sight in Autumn.
The sharks, which can measure up to 25 feet long and weigh as much as a double-decker bus, can be seen in huge numbers of the Donegal coast from April until early October.
The creatures are harmless and live on small microscopic life called plankton which they take in through their huge open mouths.
Wildlife ranger Johnston, who is based in Buncrana, said there is a possibility the huge creatures may not migrate at all.
“That’s how little we know about them. Some of them have been found in Greenland but not enough research into them has been done at all.
“We simply don’t know where they go when they disappear from our waters at the end of the summer months.
“For all we know they could be resting off the coast of Donegal and waiting for the milder water and a guaranteed supply of food in the summer months before resurfacing. We just don’t know for sure yet,” he admitted.
However this is not a secure form of conservation and could be increased at any time. The Irish research team, under Emmett, is aiming to produce a species action plan, which will provide a road map for the conservation of the magnificent shark.
To date the team has made a significant impact in the shark conservation and research world. They are one of the worlds leading shark study groups with peer reviewed pioneering research to their credit.
In 2009 the group was the first in the world to deploy visual tags and receive visual sighting returns. In 2009 the group was also the first to establish scientifically robust population density and distribution figures for any water body world-wide.
In 2010 the group was the first in the world to develop an effective genetic sampling method for basking sharks, enabling the tripling of all world-wide genetic samples in one year.
In 2011 the team intend to go beneath the waves and investigate the sharks dive patterns and surfacing frequency. They hope to link this to meteorological and hydrological drivers which will enable them to predict the sharks’ behaviour during particular weather and geographical conditions.
Emmett says the group’s work is only really beginning but says he cannot stress what an amazing natural resource the basking sharks can be to Donegal and to Ireland.
“Ireland is an open playground for these creatures but Donegal in particular is a hotspot for them.
“It is very early days yet but we are learning quickly and we need the public to help us. These sharks have huge potential from an eco-tourism point of view.
“If people in Donegal can realise that then we could have a huge natural resource on our doorstep,” he said.